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The Watering Hole - Conversations on 21st. Century religion.

Politics and Religion - Do we dare talk about it?


 
Abstract

Politicians claim to be religious. It's almost a public requirement. But what do they believe? We have groups like the no name group "The Fellowship" (or C Street) actually insisting that Jesus got it wrong, and Christianity should be about power. We have some Christians endorsing authoritarianism and Fascism. Would Jesus support this, and is there anything definitive that negates their assumption?


Politics and Religion - Do we dare talk about it?

One of the most contentious issues of the day in the US is the relationship between religion and politics. This post is intended to promote discussion, and to be shared.

Generally strong, definitive statements can't be made about religion or politics. Opinions and beliefs vary widely, and this is accepted. So it helps to refer to history for effects, and original intent.

Christianity was not political until 300 AD. Some Roman Emperors tolerated Christianity before Constantine's time; some not so much. Constantine promoted Christianity (313 AD), and later it became the official religion of the Empire as it ended. That action helped settle the many religious conflicts that were creating havoc in the land, including disputes between Christian sects.

Before that time Christianity circulated letters and books, but had few universally approved ones. There was no Bible. The official collection of literature, the Bible, was a state mandate required of religion to help appoint a recognized orthodox belief and doctrine, on which Constantine insisted. But it wasn't completed until well after his death. He promoted Christians to high governmental office.

Literature deemed to deviate too much, such as Gnosticism, Arianism, and nine other books, were excluded. Those clerics in the Empire who didn't agree were exiled or their churches confiscated. While other religions were tolerated, there could only be one Christian belief. Christianity was on its way to being a political tool, for good or ill."

Soon the Catholic Church, having gained enormous political power as the Empire faded, used Christianity violently to keep its territory solidly Catholic and orthodox. People of other religions were required to convert. And people used religion to justify both good deeds and evil, such as the Crusades. The Catholic Church led long wars between Protestants and Catholics, and killed entire heretical populations (Cathari men, women, and children in France).

They killed others with heretical beliefs (witches and scientists), and indigenous populations in new lands, plus had extreme intolerance toward homosexuals and others, with death the common punishment. The horrors of Christian history and deviant self-serving priests had made some rebel (Protestants), leading to wars. The horrors make some today refer to themselves as "Followers of Christ" rather than Christians.

Countries like the UK still have Christianity as a state religion, although it isn't imposed on anyone. The mix between politics and religion historically has raged out of control. While it would be okay with some to still be doing atrocities in the name of religion, most people don't want religion having that kind of power. With our founding father's awareness of the bad mix, they established separation of church and state in our US Constitution.

Kingdoms were the norm in Jesus' time. Not so much anymore. We have countries, and we have nations, sometimes within our countries, and there is a distinct different between a country and a nation. The US and UK have politically formed geographical lines. Nations are groups of people, not necessarily within political boundaries. Religious groups can exist within political boundaries as long as they defer to the laws of the state. For example, the Kurds are an Islamic ethnic group that exists in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. The Cherokee nation was once in several US States, but was pushed into Oklahoma. Christians and Jews exist in most countries, yet they are nations of people.

Adding religion to politics made religion about power, not about nations, and absolute power corrupts. Although politicians are called public servants, and are expected to serve the people, the role of government is to use the power given to it by the people to govern people and institutions. Politics is inherently about power.

Various people since the separation of church and state in our land have tried to make Christianity itself about power, used it to justify slavery, used it to try to create oppressive laws, used it to justify capitalism, used it to get leaders' crimes ignored, and interpreted it in many ways to justify their own actions.

We've seen the misuse of Christianity married to politics in history. What did Jesus say about the purpose of Christianity? More than anything, he sent his Apostles to spread the Good News. The only people Jesus condemned during his ministry were the leaders, who were very political. He called them hypocrites and a den of vipers. They were corrupt. More is required of leaders to be true and not mislead.

Jesus recognized and deferred to the different roles of church and state, saying, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and Give to God what is God's." He often referred in his parables to the existing economic activity in the land, the reality in which people live, without endorsing it. He recognized that for people with a lot of money, they find it difficult to be true to both the demands of money and the just treatment of others demanded by God. He spent his time ministering to the poor and those unjustly treated in society, not the wealthy and the leaders.

Jesus recognized the place of economics, government, and of God, but separately. When people had the expectation that he would become a powerful king like King David and rule over the land, he said, "My kingdom is not of this world," and he was identified more with the role of the Suffering Servant in prophecy. Regarding his kingdom, in this he referred to a nation of people, not a political and geographical boundary, not worldly possessions, not government, not the things of this world. The Kingdom of God was a spiritual alignment, and is here and now.

Jesus unwaveringly refused to let his beliefs become a political institution. His religion was not an authoritarian force used to impose the church's will on people, and was not a state imposed religion. It was always a choice of the individual to accept God's grace toward them and embrace and follow his ways in the belief (faith) that Jesus' ways served best in their and others' lives. There is greater transformative and healing power in meekness and long suffering.

In the US it is always the individual's amd leader's choice who to vote for, what laws to impose, and to lead with their own conscious, consistent with our Constitution. But religious beliefs that guide our leaders, when they don't fit the things that Christ clearly was or was not about, have to be widely criticized.

When you make religion about authoritarianism (fascism), politics, and power, you are too far off the track of what Christ was about. Seduced by power, you are actually opposing Christ. People should not be seduced by these people whose religion is unsupportable and against Christ.

- Dorian

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- Dorian

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